Twizzlers & Tate
“Man, what the fuck?”
I scowled, rolling my eyes at my best friend, Tate Jennings.
“I don’t want to watch your lesbian porn,” I said. I was sitting on the floor and leaning against his bed as I played Flappy Bird.
He whined in complaint from up on the bed, where he was lying on his stomach. The side of his face rested against his crossed arms as he glared at me. “Who doesn’t like lesbo porn?”
“Are you lesbian?”
“Fuck off,” he snapped, slapping the back of my head. I shot him a deadly glare.
He sighed, taking out his earbuds. “Bro, you don’t have to be lesbian to watch lesbian porn. A lot of straight girls watch gay porn,” he said matter-of-factly, as if he were the keeper of straight girls’ porn collections.
”Bro,” I said, “that’s creepy and that’s called fetishizing.”
Tate’s brows furrowed in annoyance. “They get mad when people don’t think they’re hot and now they’re getting mad when people do?”
I huffed in disbelief. This guy. “The issue is that you don’t support gay rights but still jack off to lesbian porn.”
“So, according to your high moral standards, if I did support gay rights, which I do by the way—I could jack off to lesbo porn without any guilt?”
I considered that, tilting my head. “No.”
He threw his arms up in exasperation. “That’s fucking stupid, man. Girls getting it on with girls is the sexiest thing since toast.”
I looked at him weirdly.
“Toast is good,” he grunted. Then he glared daggers at me. “You’re so fucking gay. Jesus Christ...you’re black, too. Trying to check all the minority boxes, eh?”
I shrugged, neither confirming nor denying. I hadn’t ever really been interested in anyone. I just noticed small things sometimes. Like Liam the barista at the coffee shop who had nice freckles and Abby the cashier at the grocery store who had pretty hands.
”Are you gay?” He exclaimed, sitting up quickly. Then he paused pensively. “Actually, wait. Does that mean gay people aren’t allowed to watch straight porn?”
I laughed, ignoring his question. “Don’t worry, smartass. Gay people don’t want your straight porn anyway. Gay porn is much better.”
He gaped at me. “That’s literally what I just said.”
“Yeah, but you’re not gay.”
“This—” he stared. “This is discrimination!”
“Aw, poor baby,” I said wryly. I reached over to ruffle his brown curls. “My point is, straight people should watch straight porn and gay people should watch gay porn. Simple.”
“Does that mean bisexuals and pansexuals get full access?”
I smirked. “Yes.”
“You’re such a fairy,” he muttered with a loud groan.
“Wow, you actually almost hurt my feelings that time,” I said.
“Go get food,” he said, thrusting his index at the door. “Go! Go! Go!”
I shot him a dirty look when he nudged me in the back with his knee. He glared back at me with his dark green eyes, unfazed.
Ugh. I got up reluctantly and left the room to venture downstairs in search of snacks. That was the sucky part of being friends with someone for nine years. They tend to realize that you won’t follow through on all your murderous threats. And plus, Tate had never been a pussy. That was one of the reasons we were such good friends.
The dude didn’t care about anything except getting laid and food. Which was both good and bad; It made him non-judgmental but it also made him a prick.
“You want beer or soda?” I shouted. The kitchen was littered with fast food leftovers. Everything was from the same joint—which made sense considering we lived in bum ass nowhere, Alberta. It was a small town with around eight hundred people. We only had two fast food places, and one was superior to the other.
“Beer, dipshit! Jeez, it’s like we’re strangers.”
I rolled my eyes. Tate was such a fucking drama queen. I craned my neck toward the stairs, cupping my mouth so he could hear me. “What else do you want, asshat?”
“Get twizzlers too! Since I apparently have to motherfucking tell you everything!”
I made a face. Tate had an unhealthy obsession with that licorice shit. No one understood it, but he inhaled a pack a day. Both the convenience stores in our town kept it stocked in case he dropped by. It was a wonder he hadn’t gone into cardiac arrest yet.
I frowned in irritation when I realized he was out of twizzlers. He was gonna make us go to the convenience store. Whatever. I’d get a slushie or something.
“There’s no twizzlers left,” I said as I tossed him the beer without warning. He fumbled with it for a moment and flipped me off.
His eyes widened when he registered my words. “What?! Where the fuck did they go?!”
“You ate them, dumbfuck,” I deadpanned.
“I did not!” He said, rolling off the bed and wincing when he slammed into the carpeted ground.
I crossed my arms and stared down at him. “Yes, you did.”
”Ez,” he whined, scrambling to his feet. “I didn’t! Mom banned me yesterday because I called Will a fatass.”
I raised a brow, amused. “Will isn’t even fat.”
He shrugged, getting an odd look on his face; the one he got whenever we talked about his fraternal twin. “He’s not exactly in shape either. He says it’s the meds but it’s all the fucking carbs he eats,” Tate said stubbornly, grabbing his keys from his desk. He breezed past me and raced downstairs.
“Not everyone can be you, dick. And the meds do make you gain weight,” I called after him, following him downstairs. I thought Will looked perfectly fine and as far as I knew, he barely ate.
“I’m not exactly ripped,” he retorted dryly, gesturing to himself. “But it wouldn’t kill him to go out sometimes. This is why he’s depressed.”
I frowned. I was pretty sure Will didn’t go out because he was depressed, not the other way around. “Whatever, man. Maybe we should take him with us.”
Tate’s face scrunched up. “So he can complain the whole time? Yeah, no thanks.”
“Will doesn’t even complain,” I said, the exasperation evident in my tone. I shoved Tate in the shoulder for being an insensitive prick. “You’re the one who said he should go out, anyway. I don’t care.”
The brown-haired boy narrowed his eyes at me. “Fine. You can go get him since you love defending him.”
“Fuck you!” I snapped over my shoulders, shaking my head with a smile when I saw him smirk.
Fucking Tate. He loved pissing me off; apparently that was the most interesting thing to do in this shitty town.
The stairs creaked as I reached the top. I turned left and knocked on Will’s door. Silence. I sighed and knocked again. “Will?” Slight shuffling. “Will?”
A muffled groan. I took that as a sigh to come in pushed the door open. I stood in the doorway with my arms crossed and a brow raised.
Will peeked out from under his covers a moment later, shirtless. His dark eyes were dull and dazed, as if he wasn’t quite here; heavy bags hung under them which was a sure sign that he wasn’t getting enough sleep. His square glasses were perched on the tip of his nose. His red curls—that shone with a thin layer of grime—sat in a disheveled mess at the top of his head. Week-old stubble decorated his square jaw, the little red hairs dotting the pale skin. He didn’t seem angry, or annoyed, or sad. He just seemed done.
The room smelled musty and I instinctively felt my nose scrunch up. I spotted half-eaten plates of food spread haphazardly across his desk. Clothes were strewn all over the floor; jeans in the corner, bunched up shirts by the foot of his bed, and socks in a miserable pile by the window. Several textbooks were stacked on his nightstand in what looked to be a very unstable reenactment of the leaning tower of Pisa. Months worth of assignments were wedged into the dusty books; they were so stuffed that the spines were beginning to curve under the pressure.
It was a mess.
The last time I had seen him was a couple of months ago. He almost never came out of his room—or even if he did, I had a feeling he tried to avoid everyone, including Tate and his mom.
That didn’t rub me right. Even though Tate acted like an asshole, he cared about his brother and Will totally blew him off. It wasn’t anybody’s fault that he was depressed.
We’re gonna go to Pete’s, you coming?”
I bit my lip to keep in my snide comments. Sometimes I forgot that Will was more sensitive than Tate; he always had been. You could call Tate an assclown—he’d just grin and hurl a snowball at your face. If you called Will an assclown, the boy’s pretty dark eyes would water. I knew this for a fact. It happened when we were kids. You could imagine my confusion when a little boy with messy red curls dressed in a too-big puffy jacket sniffled, eyes glistening with unshed tears. His ears had been tinged pink, both from the chilly wind and from my careless words.
I had never regretted saying something as much as I had in that moment.
“Are you sure?”
He nodded, avoiding my gaze. He blinked a few times and I watched as he slowly dragged his knees up to his bare chest. He was tall and his upper body spoke of years of athleticism; he used to play soccer. Yet now he seemed small and vulnerable as he sat on his bed looking...broken.
I scratched the back of my neck. It felt wrong leaving him here. He was clearly unwell.
“Come on, man. I’ll buy you whatever you want,” I said, keeping my tone light. He blinked at me with those blank eyes. They used to light up a really pretty chocolate colour.
“Go away, Ezra.” His voice was a low scratchy drawl.
I felt anger rise in my chest but I forced it down and nodded tensely. “Fine. Whatever. Do you at least want us to bring something back for you?”
I didn’t respond, just shut the door with a sigh. I leaned my forehead against the door. Fuck. I felt upset at myself for being upset at him. Obviously he didn’t choose to be depressed but...
I just wished he would try to get better.
I went downstairs, resigned. Tate read my expression and I saw his face fall slightly.
“Let’s go,” he said, tugging on his boot. He cursed when it went flying from his grip at the sheer force he was applying. I eyed him cautiously as I picked it up and handed it to him.
“He’ll be okay,” I said, not sounding too sure. I cleared my throat, continuing in a firmer tone. “Seriously. He has meds, a shrink, and he has your mom and both of us. He’ll get over it, he always does.”
What hung eerily in the silence was that Tate had been the one to find Will last time with an empty bottle of pills clutched in his hand. He had been writhing on the bathroom floor, dizzy, nauseated, and choking on his vomit. The doctors had said he was hypotensive and tachycardic—and that he might have died if they hadn’t pumped his stomach in time.
Since then, the bottles of pills stayed locked in the highest cabinet of the kitchen.
I tried for a smile, patting his back. “Can’t watch lesbian porn without twizzlers, yeah?”
He smiled weakly and he was out of the door in seconds. I followed him, tugging on my own boots and coat. Winter in Canada got really cold, really fast.
“My dick is going to fall off,” I said, teeth chattering as I raced to the car. When I finally managed to shut the door to the passenger seat, I rubbed my hands together to create heat.
Tate stood in the middle of the driveway in just a hoodie and boots. He checked his phone with a frown. I rolled my eyes. I had the faint suspicion that he was bionic which made him cold-proof; It was the most annoying thing ever.
“Tate!” I said in an admittedly whiny tone, “come on.”
“Okay, jeez. Calm your tits. Even if your dick does fall off, you’ll lose like what, two inches?” Tate opened the driver’s seat door and slid in comfortably while I hugged my jacket to my face to avoid the cold gusts of air.
“Two inches,” I sputtered indignantly. ”Fuck you.”
He reached over to turn the heater on and I exhaled in relief. He eyed me, unimpressed. “It’s unfair to call me a drama queen at this point.”
“Some people are more tolerant to cold temperatures,” I said, glowering at him from under my penguin tuque as he put the car in reverse and checked the rearview mirror.
“Or maybe some people are just pussies,” he said. I swatted his shoulder with my mitten-clad hand.
We were at the convenience store just a few minutes later; it was a relatively short drive. Tate had suggested we walk—I had hit him hard enough to make him flinch for saying that—but we had eventually (with heavy persuasion from my end) decided to drive instead.
“Welcome to Pete’s—oh, hey, guys,” the girl behind the counter greeted, recognizing us, but not looking too excited about it.
“Hey Manahil.” I nodded my head. She was a girl who went to our school; I think she was a year below us, even though she was dating one of the seniors who was on the soccer team.
“Here for more Twizzlers?” She asked, cocking a brow.
Tate grinned, the conversation about Will momentarily forgotten. “What else in this place is worth buying?”
“Considering I’m an employee here, I’ll wisely choose not to answer that,” she said, amused. She adjusted her dark blue hijab in the reflection of the glass counter.
He shrugged. “Touché.”
“Hurry up, Tate,” I scowled, feeling antsy. Will’s home by himself. “Get your damn candy.”
“What crawled up your ass today?” He muttered, shooting me a look. He ambled off, coming back with two red packets in his grasp. He waved them excitedly.
“What’s your deal?” Manahil asked, chewing her gum obnoxiously loud.
I frowned. “None of your business.”
“Alright, then. You don’t have to be a jerk about it,” she said curtly, then smiled kindly at Tate when he placed the Twizzlers on the counter.
Tate fished in his pocket for the $4.50 the two packets cost and handed it to her. The cash register rang as she scanned the items. She passed them to him.
“Have a good day.” She bit her lip and turned to me begrudgingly. “You too, Ezra.”
“Thank you. I hope your shift goes well,” I said. Manahil was sweet, even if she wasn’t always polite, and I liked that about her. She didn’t take any bullshit and she was clear about that.
“Come on, man.” Tate grabbed my arm, practically yanking me out of the store. I glared at him. He looked panicked as he jammed his key into the ignition. “I forgot Will was home alone.”
“The pills are locked up,” I rationalized. Panicked Tate was chaotic and destructive.
“He’s not five years old,” my best friend snapped. “He can easily break a lock. And that’s where all the knives are, too.”
“Where’s your mom?” I asked.
“Work,” he said, hands tightening on the steering wheel. “She had to pick up an extra shift. Apparently one of the nurses is in labour.”
We parked a moment later and I let out a grunt of surprise at the abrupt stop. Tate was out of the car before I could even blink. I went after him, and we both relaxed at the sight of the locked cabinet door.
“See?” I said, even though my heart had been jumpy too. “He’s safe.”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
I turned at the interjection.
Will Jennings stood there, small nose scrunched up in confusion. His dark eyes were still dull and dazed, red hair a mess. His glasses were smudged. The scratchy sound of his voice was unique in an irritating way. I would recognize it even in a crowd of people.
“Ever heard of a shower?” Tate said, reaching into the fridge for a beer. I frowned. That was his second beer today.
Will stared at his twin, impassive. His hands trembled slightly. It was subtle, but I was good at observing. “Screw you.”
“Anyone would rather screw me than you. You stink,” Tate snapped as the beer opened with a click. He took a swig.
I watched the exchange silently. Will did stink. He smelled like sweat.
“I’m here for my pills, not for your opinion.”
“Fine, I’ll give them to you with dinner. I was at Pete’s.”
“I’m supposed to have them at the same time every day,” Will said flatly, as if this was new information. His arms hung at his sides and I could see his fists were clenched. Tate did the same thing when he was uncomfortable.
“I know, okay? I’m sorry,” Tate said.
Will didn’t respond. His dark eyes were still blank as if he was in a different world. He nodded slowly, blinked a few times, then headed upstairs. Tate and I watched the staircase until the scruffy boy disappeared, shoulders hunched and back muscles tense.